GREAT FALLS — The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls could be undergoing some big changes.
Last week, the city planning board and zoning commission approved the museum’s rezoning and property aggregation requests.
On March 17th, the City Commission will look over the museum’s expansion plans, and a final vote will be cast on April 7th.
If both the City Commission and museum’s board of directors approve, the museum could start expanding within the year.
CMR Museum director Tom Figarelle said the museum’s expansion plans aren’t a want, but rather a need: “We have some real needs physically speaking for the campus. We need more parking, more green space. We want an enhanced and re imagined arrival experience for our visitors. And we want to set the conditions for future growth."
The museum, located at 400 13th Street North, started its expansion in 2019 when a donation allowed the museum to buy land across the street.
“In 2019 we were fortunate enough to receive a major donation that allowed us to buy a final property between 12th and 13th Street North; that allowed us to re-imagine the future of our campus,” Figarelle said.
The property between 12th Street and 13th Street and 5th Avenue North can be used to make additional parking and green spaces.
Future expansion plans also include additional space in the sculpture garden, more grassy areas and picnic benches, and a larger facility.
While new parking lots, a larger sculpture area, and more greenery could take place in the near future, additions to the facility as a whole are more likely to take years.
“It's an exciting moment for us to think big and bold about what the museum can look like physically in both the near term - perhaps in the next year to year and a half as well as the long term over the next 20 to 30 years,” Figarelle said.